January 2000 News

Kargil and Kandahar

13 January 2000
The Hindustan Times
Ambrose Pinto (executive director, Indian Social Institute, New Delhi)

The biggest disappointment with the BJP is its governance. Kargil was the real test of a government that did not know how to govern. the country had to pay heavily for the lack of vigilance on the India-Pakistan border. One expected the party not to do well in the elections after such a grave failure in a matter of national security. But once again, with the support of the media and as a result of the split in the Congress, the BJP bounced back as a major player.

Worse than Kargil was the handling of the hijack crisis. The citizens are yet to understand the reasons why the government did not act in Amritsar and permitted the plane to fly to Lahore. After the first error, the government committed many other mistakes, culminating in the final release of three hard-core terrorists as ransom for passengers in the plane. It is a pity the government gave in to the demands of the hijackers. By doing so, it has provided greater impetus to terrorism in the Kashmir Valley. If those responsible for terrorism are released under pressure from the same terrorist group, the question is: how do we handle terrorism?

Good governance means trust and delegation - trust in people and delegation of power to competent bodies expected function in the area of their competence. Our armed forces have been noted for their bravery and courage. If authorised, they would have performed their duty at Amritsar itself without hijackers determining the destination of the aircraft. It is wrong to assume that the elected representatives have competence in everything that they do because they have been elected. The entire mess in the hijacking drama has been an account of a lack of consultation. And lack of consultation is due to lack of trust.

There are bound to be several consequences of the BJP's handling of the crisis. Kargil further communalised Indian society and consolidated Hindu vote banks in the name of false nationalism. Kandahar is no different. Any conflict or war with Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir or outside is perceived as conflict between Muslims and Hindus. The BJP, given its animosity to the minorities, benefited from the Kargil event.

The impact of the hijack will be no different. One has to keep one's eyes and ears open to what will now happen in Jammu and Kashmir and the rest of the country.

Providing an impetus to terrorist activities in the Valley will mean incurring the wrath of ordinary citizens. If one has to critically examine and evaluate the impact of the militancy on the civilian population, the latest decision of the government of releasing the terrorists will cause more damage to life and property in Jammu and Kashmir. In the name of terrorism, hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed in Kashmir, ever since the battle began between the Indian army and the militants.

If India has lost sympathy with international human rights organisations on Kashmir and a large chunk of the civilian population there, it is on account of the rough manner in which ordinary people have been treated in Kashmir. The pro-Indian attitude in the Valley at the time of Independence may not have turned into pro-Pakistani: and yet there is a growing perception that the people are disillusioned with the Indian government. After the hijack crisis, if the government acts in a high-handed way, more people in the Valley will be alienated.

The need, therefore, is to go beyond the `Hindutva' discourse of alienation of minorities of a discourse of alienation of minorities to a discourse of dialogue. Those who know Kashmir think that there are a large number of people who are willing to sit at a round table to discuss the problem. The people in Kashmir have a right to live in peace and security.

The uppermost thought in the minds of decision-makers should be to win them over through mutual dialogue and respect. Militancy cannot be fought by guns in the long run. People need to be treated as people. Once the goodwill of the people is earned normalcy will be restored.

 

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